A digression. When I was a little cho, I loved books with main characters like Dido Twite in Joan Aiken's Wolves series and Goth in James Schmitz' The Witches of Karres: wiry, adventurous girls who could almost be mistaken for boys. I knew I would never be any of those girls, because I was chunky and unathletic and bookish and shy and near-sighted.
Last night I finished Provenance by Ann Leckie. People who wanted more hardcore space opera (and yes, I think it's OK to call it that) like the Ancillary trilogy have been grumpily posting their displeasure with the book around the Intarwebs. Because although Provenance is set in the same universe, and people in the story are talking about the events that occurred in that series, the star of Provenance is not an unstoppable corpse soldier turned engine of vengeance, like Breq. The protagonist is, instead, a chunky, self-deprecating, messy, naive young woman named Ingray Aughskold. And whether you enjoy Provenance, I suspect, will have a lot to do with whether you sympathize with Ingray or think she's a fool.
Ingray has Mommy issues. Mom is a powerful politician who adopted three children, intending to eventually make the most suitable one her heir. This is not an uncommon practice on the world of Hwae. One child made herself scarce as soon as she could legally do so, leaving Ingray to complete with their confident and obnoxious brother Danach. Both Ingray and Danach are certain that Danach will be the heir; nevertheless, Ingray would like to secure some of their mother's regard for herself. So she invests all her own money in a scheme that starts with breaking a famous thief out of the smarmily named prison world Compassionate Removal and goes on from there. As james_davis_nicoll puts it, it is "a very bold scheme, a scheme so well planned that it does not go off the rails until shortly before the book begins."
If the book sounds like a caper novel, that is indeed one part of what it is. It is also a coming-of-age story, a story that addresses the idea of symbols and what part they play in our personal and national stories, a novel that explores families and what parents can do to children, and a science fiction story full of aliens and robots and stolen starships. I enjoyed it quite a lot.
Next, I've started a non-fiction book that is not much like anything I would have picked on my own, but a book club has started at work, and it involves some colleagues that I should get to know better, so. It's called The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds. The blurb describes it as "How a Nobel Prize–winning theory of the mind altered our perception of reality." I'm about 5% of the way into it, and so far author Michael Lewis has been discussing the idea of using statistics to help make better choices in selecting athletes for pro sports teams. I suppose this is a topic of great interest to many, but not to me, so I hope the book gets into something else quickly.
I also have waiting for me the first volumes of two new-to-me manga series, Golden Kamuy and Complex Age, and also the first collected volume of the comic The Wicked and the Divine.
1½ lbs apples (to make a little applesauce)
1 pint cider (ditto, although the Mr. might also drink some)
red and yellow cherry tomatoes
2 heads garlic
½ lb. farmhouse cheddar cheese
I also pulled a package of CSA lamb stew meat out of the freezer when I got home: not to make stew, but kebabs instead. It's still too hot to make stew. Ditto winter squash, although one of the booths had some lovely Red Kuri.
So grocery store run should only be non-food items, skim milk, Siggi's yogurts for me, some breakfast cereals, long pasta (spag, linguine), Flackers flax seed crackers, and parmesan cheese. Maybe a few oranges too.
ETA: And berries! how can I forget those? They're in the icon ... .
Driveby, b/c I suck tonight. I have been killing time on Tumblr while a messy kitchen awaits me.
Finished DWJ's Time of the Ghost. Limp ending: endings are DWJ's chief weakness. (That is part of why the ending of The Homeward Bounders is such a shock: she nailed that one.)
Read Seanan McGuire's Down Among the Sticks and Bones. She seems to be getting her Catherynne Valente on in this one: it's told in a slightly distant myth/fairytale voice. It's the backstory for two of the characters from Every Heart a Doorway: Jack and Jill, a pair of twins who ended up in a dark fantasy world. Jill's half of the story seems to me much weaker and less interesting than Jack's, and I think the novella is the poorer for that.
Then I re-read Peter Dickinson's mystery King and Joker, which used to be a bulletproof comfort read for me. And sadly, it didn't really work for me this time. I'm not sure what's up. :-(
ETA: Next up will likely be Ann Leckie's Provenance. I'm more in the mood for a comfort read, but given how flat the last one fell, I don't want to try one.
*Tears myself away from the Yuletide tagset*
When last we left our intrepid reader, she was about to finish Max Gladstone's Ruin of Angels. Holy crap, was that an enjoyable read! Violent as all get out, scary sometimes (Kai, survivor of the Penitents on Kavekana, is squicked out when the antagonist describes her culture's positive-reinforcement equivalent ... and I don't blame Kai one bit), full of action, and a very-much-earned happy ending.
Next up was Rebel, third volume of Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith's Changes series. We're back in the post-apocalypse Wild West town of Las Anclas, where teenagers have serious responsibilities (actual and critical jobs, for example) and yet remain kids, with raging hormones and still-developing communications and judgment skills. Ross, the titular "stranger" of the first book, starts remembering more of his past—and part of it comes to join him. Mia comes to terms with some parts of her relationship with Ross and Jennie that had been worrying her. Felicite's pampered life falls apart a little further (and she remains surprisingly three-dimensional and sympathetic). Kerry becomes more and more a part of the community (and continues to be haunted by the possibility that her terrifying father may yet show up at the town gates). This installment has no huge crisis with a correspondingly huge climax but is instead a series of satisfying mini-arcs.
I was going to read Seanan McGuire's Down Among the Sticks and Bones next, but decided instead to take a break from new plotlines with an old favorite, Diana Wynne Jones' The Time of the Ghost. I'm just at the point where the ghost has learned for sure which Melford sister she was in life; now the plan to save her, with the support of her three sisters and their two friends, is being set into motion. Mmm good!
It seems like I must have read more than I am remembering ... .
Anyway, I finished The Brightest Fell, by Seanan McGuire (October Daye #11), which ends pretty much on a cliffhanger. The Magic McGuffin puts Toby (mostly) back together again, but two characters she cares about very much are seriously traumatized and a slippery opponent has disappeared. Thus it goes when you are the Knight of Lost Words. My sister has suggested that I introduce my 15-year-old niece to these, and I might as well. Certainly they've kept me going for a good long while now.
I'm about three-quarters of the way through Max Gladstone's The Ruin of Angels (his new Craft novel), and I'm enjoying it immensely, despite the fact that the editor seems to have fallen down on the job. Several times, I've had to re-read sentences two or three times to make sense out of them. It's not that Gladstone blew it in any of these cases, according to the rules of grammar, but he wasn't terribly clear, and given that this is a fast-paced thriller, really, the pacing went off. Also, at one point, a character introduced as Marian becomes Miriam for a sentence, and then returns to her original name. Finally, did you know that the past tense of "sweat" (as in, what you do on a hot day, especially if you run) is also "sweat"? I, in fact, did not know that. But Gladstone does, and there's a lot of sweating going on, so I kept tripping over this.
Despite my confusion on these mechanical points, this is an awesome read. There's an extended and thrilling caper involving a Very Cool Train (making me wonder whether Gladstone has been reading Stand Still Stay Silent: see Dalahästen), and about a third of the way in, it occurred to me that all the leads, all the POV characters, and the most significant antagonist are all female, and several of them are also queer.
And Kai and Izza are back, as is Tara Abernathy. \o/
If I remember what I read between Fell and Ruin, I'll let you know.
I've actually been mainlining new (new to me, anyway) fiction like nobody's business. I had a lot queued up for the vacation last month, and for various reasons, I didn't get to it. Now I have. Some quick takes:
The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin is everything most reviewers have said. Very satisfying ending to a very dark, sad series. Happy was not going to happen, but hopeful *did*, and beautifully so. It was a positive ending that was most definitely earned. And I really loved the world-building all over again.
City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett also ended its series well, if a trifle oddly. Alas, most of my favorite characters didn't survive. There were nods to all sorts of other works, including rather a lot of Terry Pratchett, I realized after finishing the book.
Murderbot: All Systems Red (novella) by Martha Wells was a lot of fun, about a snarky, introverted android that has circumvented its "restraining bolt" programming and becomes something of a sleuth+superhero on behalf of its humans. There are already three more Murderbot stories in the pipeline. Yay!
The Furthest Station (novella) by Ben Aaronovitch at first disappointed me because I didn't realize it was a novella. But viewed in that light, it was an enjoyable brief addition to the Peter Grant/Rivers of London series. The identity of the cute little tyke whom Peter encounters was absolutely no surprise to me, though.
The Gates of Tagmeth by P.C. Hodgell was OK. These most recent Kencyrath books have rather disappointed me. I respect Baen for acquiring and continuing this series, and even attempting to obtain suitable cover art in the last couple of volumes (although crap, I still think that even a casual persual of DeviantArt would turn up better choices), but holy crud, a good editor would have helped the last few a lot, I think. And Baen is not the publisher to supply that. Jame and her fated love still generate no heat that I can discern, sadly, and I wish PCH hadn't matched up Kindrie as she did. I like both characters, but not together. This makes me think of the manga Fruits Basket, where the mangaka seemingly decided that everybody needed to be matched up at the end, regardless of whether it made any sense. Also, poor Lyra is becoming a pawn of fate/God's chew-toy more than is necessary, IMO.
What Did You Eat Yesterday? vol. 12 by Fumi Yoshinaga continues Ken and Shiro's low-key relationship and Shiro's cookery. This volume seemed to have less melodrama/tension than the last few (nothing dire happens to either partner's family, for example), although someone makes Shiro a very interesting proposal ... and the results are both very funny and very realistic.
Ooku vol. 12, also by Fumi Yoshinaga surprised me because ... they solved the problem of the redface pox. And yet it is not the end of the series! I do have to say that in retrospect, I feel a little ... ticked off? that the solution comes under the reign of the first male shogun in ages (although his mother thinks she is still in control of things) and by the efforts of an exclusively male team (although they all constantly acknowledge the inspiration of the late lamented cross-dressing genius Hiraga Gennai, who was cis-female). That might not be a worthy way to feel, but that's how it is.
The Brightest Fell, which is the latest installment of Seanan McGuire's October Daye series. Speaking of people who are chew-toys of the divine: Toby continues to be messed with physically and magically, over and over. I do have to say that one of the events had me going "Oh, no, not again."
So the Mr. stopped by Snyder's (quirky local non-chain grocery) on the way home to lay in a supply of cottage cheese (he's picky—he only wants Axelrod's and Snyder's is the only place that has it). This is also where he gets me my vanilla Silk soymilk because Whole Paycheck has decided they only need to stock their own yucky chalky soymilk.
He usually gets his frozen treats there too: Haagen Dazs dark chocolate ice cream bars and perhaps a pint of local Moorenko's bittersweet chocolate ice cream. But this time he came home with a new Moorenko's flavor, so new that it's not on their website: Oh Snap!
It's very tasty: a strong baked-ginger flavor, strong enough to tingle a spot on my tongue where a pepper from some leftover palak paneer had already sensitized things.
Have you had an interesting ice cream flavor recently? Tell me all about it.
So usually I have enjoyed Ren Fairs in a low-key sort of way. They're like cons, albeit not quite as good: the ratio of geeks to mundanes is not as favorable. Today I went to the Maryland Renaissance Festival with the Mr., and it just didn't work for me.
The weather was pretty good, although Saturday's soaking rain meant that the ground was still fairly (ha!) muddy. And the amount of smoking seems to have gone down (I get painful sinus headaches when I get a good snort of tobacco smoke).
But I didn't feel inclined to watch any of the performances, I was uninspired by most of the handicrafts (I think I've become spoiled by works like those from Global Odyssey Design), and the food was mostly cho-hostile.
I do let myself go a bit at events like a Ren Fair, in term of eating carbs. My type II diabetes is under good enough control to allow me to do thing like share a Fryed Peasant Bread (OMT) or an apple dumpling with ice cream. But I swear that in past years, the offerings have included at least a couple of vegetable things that I could use to cut the carb + fat that makes up the typical Ren Fair culinary offering (proteins are easy - I ate steamed spiced shrimp, but I could have also had a turkey leg or Steak on a Stake). I think the moment that I lost all my reasons for being in the Towne of Revel Grove was after waiting in a longish line in the sun for Thai Fried Green Beans with Curry Peanut Sauce, only to discover that the poor little things were not only fried, but also breaded.
Maybe a larger group of friends would have helped. But the Mr. didn't seem all that inspired either. He's usually an enthusiastic patron of handicrafts, but the only thing we bought between the two of us (aside from consumables) wa a single paperback book.
So I've mentioned that our CSA pork share often comes with ground pork, and that I have been trying to find recipes for it.
Some of these recipes take ingredients that I have been having trouble finding (even at H Mart, although there it might be an issue of having the wrong name, such as Chinese vs. Korean). But I have found some of them on Great Big South American River.
A number of them come in shelf-stable sealed packages. I'm wondering what is the best method of storing these once opened?
- Zha Cai (preserved mustard stems)
- Doubanjiang Broad Bean with Chili Paste
I presume Szechuan peppercorns get stored like any other peppercorns ... or do they?
Thanks for any help you can give!
Quick, quick, quick, 'cause I'm so far behind on commitments that it's really unfunny.
I brought along a virtual stack of stuff (mostly in my Kindle) on our vacation last week. I didn't get to a lot of it, but:
The Harbors of the Sun is the conclusion to Martha Wells' Books of the Raksura, and I'm really sad to leave her dragon/bee shapeshifters behind. I have to agree with muccamukk that the Pearl-Malachite show alone was worth the price of admission, and that "Everyone got something to do [and] we met all kinds of old friends again." I'm not sure that I believed in the Evil McGuffin, and I'll need to re-read the story to truly understand what happened to it, but I appreciated the effect that the incident had on Jade and therefore on Moon. And Wells didn't kill off Stone, which is something that I had somehow convinced myself would happen. *sighs with relief*
Monstress vol. 2 (Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda) continues the story of Maika Halfwolf, a very Liu antiheroine (I first encountered Liu through her Hunter Kiss series). A lot of the action takes place aboard a ship, and I enjoyed that a lot. The captain is a total badass. My heart is constantly in my throat with regard to Maika's Morality Pet, the adorable little foxgirl Kippa, but Liu does sometimes let the innocent survive her harrowing tales, so maybe Kippa is *not* marked for a dire end. I'm not sure what I think of the Power Maika is hosting, though.
I'm now reading Yoon Ha Lee's Raven Strategem. I'm enjoying the new characters and Lee's sly humor, but I miss Cheris right now.
I bought Paper Girls, vol. 2, at the local bookstore. This shop actually used to be part of the local Politics & Prose mini-chain, and it's physically in the Takoma location of the local mini-chain restaurant Busboys & Poets. But P&P has abandoned this little shop, and now it's on its own: even more incentive to buying things there. Sadly, they were sold out of Monstress, vol. 2.
In Paper Girls, things are still very chaotic. Our intrepid 1980s paper delivery girls, who had encountered aliens and/or time travelers in vol. 1, have now encountered one of their number as an adult. Apple computers and other Apple consumer electronics are playing a big and weird role in all this. I'm still not sure what's going on, but the whole thing is starting to give off a 20th Century Boys vibe, and it would not surprise me to find out that it's in dialog with that manga series.
I also re-read Marguerite Henry's Gaudenzia, Pride of the Palio. If you were a horse-crazy kid, you probably read Henry's Misty of Chincoteague, at the very least. Giorgio Tierni is the eldest son of an Italian farmer, but all he wants to do is ride and train horses. He works hard for his father in hopes of someday achieving this dream. His story becomes intertwined with that of a mare who was bred from the local breed of working horses but with a pedigreed Arabian sire. The breeder had hoped to end up with a horse who could win the Palio of Siena, a race with medieval origins that is run on the streets of the city itself. But the mare, Farfalla ("Butterfly"), is dismissed as too lightly built for the rigor of the race, and ends up an abused and overworked cart horse.
In the end, of course (the title gives it away), she is is re-named Gaudenzia ("Joy of Living") and becomes a champion of the race for which she was bred, but this is a story of the journey that takes her there, and how Giorgio became involved. It was always my favorite Henry horse story, and I enjoyed it this time as much as I ever did. Note that this is essentially a true story, although Henry tells it as fiction. See Gaudenzia's official Palio page, in Italian. Note that Vittorino, "Little Victor," was Giorgio's professional name as a fantino, that is, a Palio rider. The contradas are the city districts, each of which acts as a faction for the race. Their names are those of the heraldic charges that stand for each: Onda = wave, Lupa = wolf, etc. The medieval pageantry of the race was almost as enticing to me, as a child, as the horse story. Henry lays out the details of the Palio and its culture very clearly and beautifully, with a couple of artful info-dumps that are prize examples of how to do such a thing well.
Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam is a controversial figure. I myself have not forgiven him for supporting the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. But I remembered this song the other day, had an overwhelming urge to listen to it, and found this lovely live version from a 2013 concert in Chile.
After I finished re-reading The Story of the Stone by Hughart, I continued on with Eight Skilled Gentlemen (also a re-read). Both books are considerably weaker than Bridge of Birds, but they're both still amusing and full of interesting little details.
Most of the other things I've read this week have been online articles that are research for the same project that got me re-reading Master Li and Number Ten Ox.After several days of that (and writing, and work being chaotic and stressful), I wanted something pleasant and easy. So I spent some time on Big South American River, looking up favorite children's authors. I discovered that not only has someone put a number of my favorite Sally Watson historicals into e-books, they also included Poor Felicity (although the author herself seems to have re-named it The Delicate Pioneer, which strikes me as a really "dead" title). I first read this at a Girl Scout summer camp, where I was a pudgy bespectacled weirdo bookworm who hated sports but was totally unafraid of snakes and bugs, and I haven't seen it since.
Felicity Dare is a sickly, rather spoiled 19th-century Southern (U.S.) girl whose parents lose all their money in bad investments and decide to go out west to settle in Oregon/Washington territory. Both parents die along the way, leaving orphaned Felicity to her good-natured but hapless uncle. They end up in what eventually becomes Seattle, where Felicity gradually becomes healthier because of being out in nature (shades of The Secret Garden!), makes friends with kids who would definitely have been considered below her social class back East (include some Native Americans), and learns to forage, cook, and shoot a rifle. There's also an ongoing feud with a rough-hewn boy who despises her for most of the book. In the end, when her snooty cousins show up at last (they went by ship instead of overland), she has to confront their faulty assumptions and her own grudges.
It's fun, slight but with lots of interesting details, and an easy, fast read (aimed at about 10-13 year-old readers).
Idan Raichel Project: an Israeli group with members from around the world. The song is "Im Telech" ("If You Leave"):
If you leave who will hug me like this
who will listen to me at the end of the day
who will console and calm me
as only you know how
And if you leave who will I wait for by the window
in a festive dress
to come hug me so,
when you arrive
When you leave go, I'll go out to the sun,
in the golden field, morning and evening,
the moon will light up my face
which dreams all day long of you
When you come back,
you'll carry me in your arms,
from the field to the river,
you'll wash my face and tell me words
as only you know how.
Translated from Hebrew by Vered Klinghofer of Chicago, Illinois, USA.